LGBT Methodists seeing ‘A Way Forward’


Last post, we shared with you an epic guest post from an LGBT laywoman in New York who found serious flaws with ‘A Way Forward‘ proposal for unity in the United Methodist Church.

Today we share quotes and short entries from three LGBT persons who are more cautiously supportive of the proposal and responded to my call for LGBT perspectives.

Please note that my intent is not that these persons speak on behalf of LGBT persons everywhere; rather, these are anecdotal responses who responded to my original call to round out my hetero worldview. So please consider their arguments and their perspective as the people who are more often “talked about” than “talked with and listened to” in our church.

I’ve bolded a few key terms for readability; if that editing bothers you, consider just the text to be their entries.

Take half a loaf while you work for the other half

An LGBT layman in Ohio shares:

Speaking only for myself, the biggest problem with waiting for the day when treatment of me and other LGBT people won’t be up for a majority vote is that if we just wait, that day will never come. If I had my druthers, this conversation would have been over years ago, but it’s not over, and pragmatically/pessimistically speaking, it’s going to be with us at least until 2020. (With the current makeup, rules, and tenor of the debate at General Conference, I think 2016 will be a GC of preparation at best.)

Politically, Washington’s successful path to marriage taught us that sometimes you take half a loaf while you work for the other half. The Hamilton/Slaughter proposal seems like the half a loaf that would certainly move the conversation forward. Perhaps when some of “the movable middle” see that the sky doesn’t fall, they’ll come along, as happened in Washington and elsewhere. For that reason, it sounds like a good idea to me.

Like Jeremy says in the 2nd post, both parts of this proposal, at their heart, seek to recognize the reality of the UMC we live in. Pastors are marrying LGBT couples. Annual Conferences are ordaining LGBT pastors. Neither of these actions will be stopping. This is a statement of fact, not a wish for how things should be, and I firmly believe that recognizing the facts is essential, whatever the subject. And while I am aware that any movement at all could exacerbate problems in the very conservative corners of the UMC, for the good of everyone (including the kids and adults in those very conservative corners), this seems like a good path forward.

Finally, I’ve said this many times before, but it bears repeating: It’s important for everyone to keep front and center in their minds that at least 5-10 percent of the kids who come up to the children’s sermon in whatever church you’re in every week, regardless of theological stance on the place of LGBTs in the world, are L, G, B, or T. We are with you, whether you’re comfortable with us or not.

The church’s action, or the church’s inaction, is sending them a message. Not *will* send a message, *is currently* sending them a message. It’s sending a message to the S kids, too. We get to choose the message we send. Every Sunday, because of your words or your silence, they know what you think about gay people. We get to choose whether our denomination continues to harm them, whether they’re LGBT or S.

Breathing space for both conservatives and progressives

An LGBT layperson in Virginia shares in response to the previous post:

I’m a gay Methodist at a church that rebels against the denomination by facilitating same-gender marriages, so I support Benz’s general take on this issue.

But, after following this debate for so long, I think “A Way Forward” is a better approach in order to make basic progress. Conservatives are not without compelling arguments about human sexuality (though they are arguments I believe are wrong) and it is my experience that they are not so much trying to exclude queer people as trying to enforce a paradigm of obedience to a Biblical view of sexuality. I personally believe that their approach to sexuality is based on an incorrect and damaging exegesis of how scripture applies in 21st century America, but the arguments they make are often logical and well-reasoned, from a certain worldview.

Since we are dealing with competing and fundamentally distinct worldviews, schism is the only alternative to a neutral, “agree to disagree” proposal for the future of the UMC. We have far more important things to accomplish as a unified institution, such as disaster relief and combating disease and poverty.

We should allow enough breathing space for both conservatives and progressives to work within the UMC. Therefore “A Way Forward” is the right kind of approach at this time.

Make them livable for the minority AND the majority

Finally, an LGBT laywoman in Georgia shares her appreciation of half of ‘A Way Forward’ and her fear about the other half:

Let me begin by saying I speak only for myself and my experience and hopes. I’m the laity in the pew and on committees. I’m lifelong (U)M – born and baptized Methodist and confirmed United Methodist. I’m progressive/liberal when it comes to full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life and polity of our Church. I support and volunteer for RMN. When I speak of clergy or laity, my words will be based on MY experience and no other’s. Oh, and I’m a legally married lesbian living in North Georgia. Yes, the SEJ.

I’m not for schism at all. I’ve signed the North Georgia Unity Covenant. I totally respect the vast middle. To me, that group is largely made up of those who worship and/or serve on committees and love our Church and also those who don’t or won’t speak up when it comes to the political side of our Church. This IS the political and very human side of our Church at stake. Some of our people are truly waking up to this. Not just silently leaving as in the past, as they do after every General Conference. The middle needs to have a voice in this, as do we all.

The Hamilton/Slaughter Proposal is both just and unjust, as HX has addressed in part 3. It has some good points going forward. I love that the Hamilton/Slaughter Proposal would allow for pastors to officiate weddings and churches to hold them for all that they desire to do so for. We could not get married in our home church (nor legally in our state). We willingly went elsewhere and were married in a hotel with a small gathering of friends and family, officiated by a friend. Not the church wedding we desired, yet at the same time, we were blessed to be able to be legally married and have such a close circle of love surrounding us. So very many in our congregation have had to go elsewhere. If marriage were legal in Georgia and the UMC, it would be such a joy to be married in our own church, something others take for granted.

To allow Annual Conferences to regulate whether LGBTQ persons can be certified as candidates and ordained would be a blessing for those ACs progressive enough to say ‘yes’ but still an ongoing punishment where ‘no’ is the standard. While I fully recognize we operate at the AC level, with 9 Reconciling communities and a few hundred individuals in North Georgia, we are far outnumbered with 930 churches, so for an AC to choose “sides” would definitely favor the conservatives, at least in the SEJ. Persons called to ordained ministry will still leave our AC in favor of one where their calling is recognized. Our LGBTQ children (born or yet to be born) will lack LGBTQ clergy mentors in our denomination who are better able to understand their special gifts, graces and experiences and help them use them to strengthen their ministry. Separate but equal didn’t work in the south in the past and that is very good reason for the SEJ to not perpetuate it in the present and future.

The Hamilton/Slaughter Proposal is a good start. So is North Georgia’s Unity Covenant. But we need to flesh them out and make them livable for the majority. And especially the minority. If we are to be the “cause” we must not be silent, we must be a part of the outcome.

More entries will come later. For the moment, thoughts?

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  1. Scott Spencer-Wolff says

    As a gay person I remain un-enthused by this “way forward”… although it does make life easier for some clergy who might be inclined to perform same-sex weddings, and the occasional LBGT person who would want to be ordained. I see it as a total benefit for the organization of the United Methodist Church, but as previous posters mentioned – not such a boon to actual gay people. I think the LGBT “laywoman” in Georgia said it very well. Separate but equal does not work.

    This proposal reminds me of the “corporations are people” discussion a year or so back. The church is not a person, it does not need to be saved or protected – as fond as some folks are. Contemporary understandings of sexuality have moved FAR past the “God has said”… model. I’m not sure how much of a service we do to LGBT folks by putting a bandaid on the situation and going with the “live and let live” model. If the church still teaches, as part of its teaching magisterium (to borrow a word) that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian Teaching… that really doesn’t change anyone’s status.

    Imagine the conversation with a teenager who is dealing with their alternative sexuality issues; “Sure we welcome you with open arms” (in some cases), “…but our church still teaches that who you are is somehow incompatible with Christian Life. God doesn’t like gays or the gay lifestyle, So, you can either change (good luck on that one), or not be a practicing homosexual.”

    Ultimately, the “teachings of the church” (almost any church) are becoming increasingly irrelevant as they diverge more widely than Robert Frost’s less traveled world from reality. I remember one recent essay about the concern about how “endorsing” homosexuality would effect the Christian Church and mission in Africa, where the Christian Church and mission in Africa has worked overtime getting to the point where homosexuality in many places is illegal and punishable by prison and in some cases, death. I’m just not sure that ANY church system that continues that model deserves to continue in any way. But hey, that’s just me.

    Bottom line; if this proposal makes it a little easier for clergy to be who they are, and perform weddings for people they care about, awesome. Just as long as we’re clear that it does NOTHING to move towards a recognition and acknowledgment of universal rights and acceptance. It’s a corporate, PR boon – but basically does diddly-squat for those who most need the affirmation. Perhaps that’s the best The UMC can do.

  2. Nathans says

    I also agree that “separate but equal” doesn’t work, and is a huge problem I have with most middle ground proposals.

    The reality is most pro-reconciliation people are looking for a third way proposal because to them, theologically affirming LGBT peoples is a foregone conclusion; therefore, the issue has become how do we get reconciliation to happen on a national and international level for the UMC, and middle ground proposals like these are a great way to ease the denomination into this change slowly to try and prevent a schism by targeting those people who are moderately conservative or are on the fence.

    Unfortunately, most conservatives will reject all middle ground proposals for the same reasons that they would reject proposals for full reconciliation—because they believe homosexuality is a sin, and any acquiescence of any kind would be giving into the sinful culture of the world. Add to that the traditionally conservative, literal interpretations of “the end times” combined with the poisonous mixture of politics and religion doled out by Fox News and the rest, and I am starting to believe that proposals like this aren’t going to solve anything as they are addressing the wrong problem.

    The real problem is how do we lovingly help our Christian brothers and sisters who are fearful of reconciliation to see and understand that there is nothing to fear from affirming LGBT peoples, while also letting all the LGBT people know that we love and affirm them as well? Because any solution short of that is going to leave someone feeling hurt and betrayed by their church. Pushing legislation through at the conference level with political stratagems won’t accomplish this.

    My vague solution has three parts:

    1) We need to continue telling people’s stories about the damage done by not affirming LGBT people in a way that encourages empathy with the other side.

    2) Something needs to be done to diminish the influence of this legalistic form of Christianity that has taken root in most of our non-affirming conservative churches. It has turned Christianity into a system of sin management where people are taught they’ll be okay as long as they follow the rules. At the moment that rule is “Don’t be gay;” but if nothing is done to address this issue, who knows what other future problems we’ll run into when other rules get broken? (I believe this entire fight is actually about this issue. How do we interpret the Bible, and how much authority does it have? Maybe a schism is the only realistic end result from such a wide difference of opinion?)

    3) Keep praying, and keep moving those who disagree with you.


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